POLACCA — The Hopi High School boys cross country team appears poised to make a run at another state championship.
Hopi High Coach Rick Baker said he thinks they have a good chance based on their experience and depth. Baker has won 14 state titles during his 17 years of coaching at Hopi High.
Baker, who also teaches physical education at Hopi High, earned his BS in education and physical education from the University of Central Oklahoma.
The Hopi High boys have five returners from last year’s state cross country championship team, including three seniors. Seniors Harry Kisto III, Travis Sahneyah and Stet Lomayestewa give the team strong runners with Vaughn Secakuku and Jaynes Saufkie also returning from last year’s state championship team.
Chad Baker—the coach’s son—Levon Nahpi, Matt Lamson and Nathaniel Numkena are strong runners who are fighting to break into the top seven runners on the team.
“We can go nine to 10 deep and still have quality runners,” Baker said.
Baker said with the team’s experience and depth that the Hopi High boys should finish in the top two at region and at state.
Coach Baker said the boys squad is looking for leadership.
“We’re looking at Harry Kisto to take over the leadership, but we need somebody to take over the team when I’m not there. We need someone to motivate the runners. It’s hard to say who that is, but the three seniors are together,” he said.
Coach Baker said 13 runners came out for the team this year.
“It’s about the same as usual. We go for quality over quantity,” he said.
Coach Baker said the runners ran mostly on their own during the summer except during Hopi High’s one week Camp of Champions.
“It’s hard to say if they’re in shape. We’ll take it one meet at a time. We’ll get everybody in shape, the we’ll have tougher workouts at mid-season,” he said.
“Right now, we just have to get ready for the season.”
The Hopi Invite will kick off the girls and boys cross country season at 3 p.m. Aug. 31 at Hopi High.
Approximately 20 teams from throughout the state are expected to compete in both the girls and boys divisions.
Hopi High girls cross country coach Harvey Honyouti said it’s too early to tell what to expect from the Lady Bruins.
Honyouti also serves as Hopi High’s Dean of Students. He has a BA in sociology from the University of Arizona and his educational certificate through Grand Canyon College.
Coach Honyouti has snagged 14 state cross country championships during 18 years of coaching at Hopi High School.
Coach Honyouti lost two runners to graduation including standout runner Kelsey Hardt, who is now running for Yavapai College.
Coach Honyouti said he’s also looking for a leader to emerge on this year’s girls cross country team and it appears that most of his runners are out of shape.
Coach Honyouti said the girls were supposed to run on their own during the summer.
Hopi High has five returners from last year’s state championship team. Senior Tashana Masayesva, junior Tracey Honahnie and sophomores Ingrid Lomawaima, Samantha Lucas and Jackie Rivers should be the backbone of this team.
Coach Honyouti said he has 25 runners—about the normal amount—out for the Lady Bruins squad, but he said last week’s one-hour practices were not enough to tell who will emerge as the top seven runners.
“I have no clue who the top seven runners will be. First, we need to get some leadership. We need someone to lead by example and we need someone who will be vocal,” he said. “We’ll improve week by week, but we’re very young. The majority of our runners are ninth graders.”
Honyouti is looking forward to the competition.
“Hopefully, we’ll be in the hunt for regionals and state,” he said. “We’ll have a better idea after the Hopi Invite.”
(Stan Bindell, former Observer editor, is journalism and radio teacher at Hopi High School.)